What is Talmud Tweets?

What is Talmud Tweets? A short, personal take on a page of Talmud - every day!

For several years now, I have been following the tradition of "Daf Yomi" - reading a set page of Talmud daily. With the start of a new 7 1/2 year cycle, I thought I would share a taste of what the Talmud offers, with a bit of personal commentary included. The idea is not to give a scholarly explanation. Rather, it is for those new to Talmud to give a little taste - a tweet, as it were - of the richness of this text and dialogue it contains. The Talmud is a window into a style of thinking as well as the world as it changed over the centuries of its compilation.

These are not literal "tweets" - I don't limit myself to 140 characters. Rather, these are intended to be short, quick takes - focusing in on one part of a much richer discussion. Hopefully, I will pique your interest. As Hillel says: "Go and study it!" (Shabbat 31a)

Monday, March 25, 2013

Eruvin 17 – Military Exemption and Burial

The Mishnah grants four special exemptions to soldiers in the field:


It is noted that in Baba Kama 80b there is another list of military exemptions:

Our Rabbis taught: Joshua [on his entry into the land of Israel] laid down ten stipulations:
1.       That cattle be permitted to pasture in woods;
2.       that wood may be gathered [by all] in private fields;
3.       that grasses may similarly be gathered [by all] in all places. . .;
4.       that shoots be permitted to be cut off [by all] in all places. . .;
5.       that a spring emerging [even] for the first time may be used by the townspeople;
6.       that it be permitted to fish with an angle in the Sea of Tiberias, provided no sail is spread as this would detain boats [and thus interfere with navigation];
7.       that it be permitted to ease one's self at the back of a fence even in a field full of saffron;
8.       that it be permitted [to the public] to use the paths in private fields until the time when the second rain is expected;
9.       that it be permitted to turn aside to [private] sidewalks in order to avoid the road-pegs;
10.   that one who has lost himself in the vineyards be permitted to cut his way through when going up and cut his way through when coming down;
11.   and that a dead body, which anyone finds has to bury should acquire [the right to be buried on] the spot [where found].

(Yes, there are 11 not 10. The rabbis say that number 8 is implied in a separate statement of Solomon’s.)

On our page, the focus is on the eruv – and it is determined that this is only a limited exemption:

It was stated at the schoolhouse of R. Jannai: [This ruling] was taught only in regard to an eruv of courtyards but their obligation to an eruv of boundaries remains unaffected

And discussion on whether the penalty for carrying on Shabbat outside of an eruv is death or flogging.

But the primary discussion is on the last Joshua’s exemptions: the permission to bury a dead soldier where he lay.

Is not this obvious, since [a killed warrior is] a met mitzvah and a met mitzvah acquires [the right to be buried on] the spot where it is found?

A met mitzvah is a dead body discovered and who has no one else to bury. The one who discovers the body – even a Levite, for whom a corpse brings ritual defilement – has the obligation to bury such a one.

A solider, or any lone corpse, has the right to be buried where it lay - which supersedes the right of property (although care is taken, if possible, to limit the damage to a working agricultural field). This is the honor given to the dead and part of the purity of the land.

1 comment:

  1. It is noted that in Baba Kama 80b there is another list of military exemptions:

    What amhoratzus! Joshua's rules have nothing at all to do with the military.

    And discussion on whether the penalty for carrying on Shabbat outside of an eruv is death or flogging

    More amhoratzus. There is no such discussion. There is no doubt that the penalty for carrying is death, and nobody even suggests otherwise, but that is not the topic of any discussion on this page.